The Fine Print: The Ultimate Paint Primer

As far as decorator effects go, paint is pure magic. A few gallons can change the entire look and feel of a home. New color can spruce up a plain façade, while textures and techniques add atmosphere inside and out. And best of all, paint doesn’t require a lot of time, effort or money—just a little panache.

People are changing how they use color in their homes. Paint is often used to accentuate architectural details like grand entranceways or two-story foyers. “Any place where it’s the first thing you see when you walk into a house will have dramatic color,” says Tom Mininno, business manager of Nolan Painting in Ardmore.

“People love color, but they don’t want to make a big loud mistake,” says Harry Adler, president of Adler’s, based in Providence, Rhode Island. He’s one of five retailers who formed The Coatings Alliance, which created C2 Paint. To help alleviate painting anxiety, C2 offers homeowners an oversized 18-by-24-inch sample of any of its 496 colors—known as the Ultimate Paint Chip—to give them a better idea of how the color they’ve chosen will appear on their walls.”

People are getting more daring because they are not going to make a mistake,” says Adler. The result is an up-swing in the popularity of those deeper, richer colors including brick red, olive green and plum.

Of course, people also may be reacting to the quirky color names like Infrared, Karma or Wicked. Who wouldn’t want walls they could call James Brown or E.B. White? Either way, Adler says, “linen white is not the way of the world anymore.”

Virtually no area of the home is exempt from colorization. “We’re calling the ceiling the fifth wall,” says Adler. “The trend is for one color on the walls, a second color on the trim and a third color on the ceiling.” Color schemes vary from contrasting to complimentary, even on exterior walls.

“People usually use different colors for the main house color, the woodwork and windows, and for the shutters and doors,” says Mininno. With neutral-colored siding or stucco in tan, beige or off-white (although yellow is winning new favor lately), shutters and doors become bold accents painted bright red or green. “People are very conscious of their surroundings and want to make sure the outside makes a statement,” Mininno says.

It works inside the home too. Many interiors feature different shades for walls and trim, and vary the level of gloss as well. “You want your trim to stand out a little more,” says Paul Jarrett, owner of Jarrett Painting in Mantua, New Jersey.

Paint also can disguise imperfections. Flat or matte paint is popular for walls because of its “high hiding abilities,” according to Mininno. Eggshell satins and semi-glosses tend to show more, but also are more durable. “Rooms with moisture, like bathrooms, tend to get eggshell finish because it repels moisture and you can wash the walls,” says Mininno. Many flat paints, even those claiming to be scrubbable, ultimately need touch-ups. “If you have small kids running around, it might be a good idea to use eggshell finish,” he says.

For the occasional fingerprint, paint is fairly low maintenance. Soap and water will remove most stains—just make sure you wait 30 days after the final coat of paint has been applied before doing any scrubbing, cautions Jarrett. Good quality paint usually requires two coats.

If you are using a professional painter, ask for at least three current references, says Mininno. “And make sure they give you a schedule, with a start time and end time, and have them provide a warranty.”

Of course, the most important decisionæcoloræis up to you. “Color is the best way of creating a mood or changing the mood of a room significantly,” says Adler. To avoid unwanted surprises, make your decision carefully. “Never judge it in the store,” says Adler. “Never purchase it without looking at it in the space. The light you’re looking at it in is everything.” Color on interior walls tends to look darker, and exterior paint appears two shades lighter.

But above all, panache is key. “I always tell people to go as wild as they want,” says Jarrett. “They can always repaint it if they don’t like it.”

Fleck’s Paint Spot in Toms River, New Jersey, will soon be carrying C2 Paint. For more information, call 732-929-0666 or call C2 directly at 888-989-4888 or visit the C2 web site at